|Stabilized pyrolysis oil serves as a biocrude more easily transported than biomass for further refining to end products. Click to enlarge.|
UOP LLC has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop economically viable technology to stabilize pyrolysis oil from second generation biomass feedstocks for use as a renewable fuel source. The UOP award is one of five made by the DOE in this area. (Earlier post.)
UOP is also investigating a pyrolysis pathway as a component for its work on renewable JP-8 aviation fuel, an element of which is funded by DARPA. (Earlier post.) Although there is no direct linkage from the new DOE funding to the DARPA project, the results of the new effort will provide knowledge that can be used to support the JP-8 and other renewable projects across UOP, according to a company spokesperson.
Biomass pyrolysis oil is a greenhouse-gas-neutral, renewable resource that is produced when biomass is rapidly heated in the absence of oxygen. The oil can be combusted in industrial burners and furnaces for power and heating or further refined into transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. However, the oil is acidic and its viscosity increases over time making the substance unstable, which limits storage and transportation options, as well as its compatibility with some industrial equipment.
UOP and its partners, using funding from the DOE’s National Biofuels Action Plan, will work to modify the composition of biomass pyrolysis oil to solve those issues.
UOP will work with Ensyn Corp., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Pall Corp. and the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service on the project. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
UOP has also formed a joint venture with Ensyn to offer technology and equipment to convert second generation biomass such as residuals from the agricultural and forestry sector as well as woody-based construction and demolition materials into pyrolysis oil for power generation and heating fuel. (Earlier post.) The joint venture will also accelerate research and development efforts to commercialize next-generation technology to refine the bio-oil into transport fuels such as green gasoline, green diesel and green jet fuel.
UOP, a recognized leader in petroleum refining process technologies, launched its Renewable Energy & Chemicals business in late 2006. Since then, UOP has commercialized the UOP/Eni Ecofining process to produce green diesel fuel from biological feedstocks and has also developed process technology to produce renewable jet fuel.
|To produce a renewable jet fuel with a biomass-based component >50%, UOP is developing a process to use aromatics derived from pyrolysis oil with its Green Jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene. Click to enlarge.|
Pyrolysis oil and jet fuel. At the recent Algae Biomass Summit in Seattle, Dr. Joseph Kocal from UOP outlined the dual process pathway UOP is developing to create renewable jet fuel with a biomass-based contribution of more than 50%. The primary process, which results in a “Green Jet” renewable synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK), is based on the hydrogenation/de-oxygenation of free fatty acids (based on the EcoFining technology) followed by isomerization and selective cracking to improve the low-temperature properties and to clip the carbons into the right range for jet fuel. The SPK can be used in blends up to 50% with conventional jet fuel. To move to a more complete renewable jet fuel, however, the end product requires more than paraffins—it needs aromatics to meet density specs. Those aromatics can either come from a traditional petroleum refinery process—or via the pyrolysis oil pathway.
UOP is developing a process of catalytic stabilization and deoxygenation of pyrolysis oil that delivers the requisite jet range cyclic hydrocarbons, and that would result in bio-content greater than 50%. Approval for this renewable jet fuel will take longer than approval of the SPK Green Jet, which should be sanctioned for blending in the shorter term, Dr. Kocal said.